WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump, who has come under fierce criticism for his handling of the coronavirus crisis in the US, has alleged that the Chinese government was either incompetent in preventing the deadly virus from spreading globally or did it for a reason.
More than 68,000 Americans have died of coronavirus in the last three months and over 1.1 million have tested positive.
America accounts for the largest number of cases of infections and fatalities in the world.
Globally 247,000 people have died and 3.5 million have tested positive so far.
“It (coronavirus) is a terrible thing, a terrible thing that happened to our country. It came from China. It should have been stopped. It could have been stopped on the spot,” Trump said during a town hall organized by the Fox News on Sunday.
“They chose not to do it or something happened. Either there was incompetence or they didn’t do it for some reason. And we’re going to have to find out what that reason was,” he said.
Trump said that had he taken no measures, more than two million Americans would have died.
Now the fatalities could be between 75,000 and 100,000.
“That’s a horrible thing. We shouldn’t lose one person out of this. This should have been stopped in China. It should have been stopped,” he said.
“This virus should not have spread all over the world. They should have put it out. They should have let us and other people in other countries go in and put it out. Because people knew it was happening,” he said.
The Chinese, he said, knew they had a problem. “I think they were embarrassed by the problem, very embarrassed,” he said.
According to the president, the intelligence agencies told him about it on January 23.
“Shortly thereafter, I closed down the country. But I didn’t do it because of what they said, because they said it very matter-of-factly, and it was not a big deal,” he said.
Unlike in the last few days, Trump refrained from giving a definitive answer if he wants to impose an additional tariff on China as a punishment for their handling of the virus.
“Well, it’s the ultimate punishment. I will tell you that. I don’t like — again, I don’t like to tell you what — because, you know, we’re all playing a very complicated game of chess or poker. Name whatever you want to name. But it’s not checkers. That I can tell you. We have a very complicated game going,” he said.
“Our country was being ripped off by every nation in the world. Now we have made unbelievable strides. Unfortunately, then we get hit by this whole situation. But we have done so well. We have taken in so much money. Going before the virus, China had the worst year they had in 67 years. That’s a reason — and I’m not happy about that. But what it does is it says they were taking us for a ride,” said the president.
After coming to power, Trump said his administration imposed massive tariffs on the import of Chinese products.
As a result of which, China is paying in billions of dollars in terms of import tariffs to the US, he asserted.
Tariffs, at a minimum, are the greatest negotiating tool that his administration has devised, he asserted.
“That was never used for negotiation. President Xi (Jinping) only made the deal with us — they’re going to buy USD 250 billion,” he said when repeatedly asked if he plans to use tariffs to punish China.
“Now, we’re going to have to see what’s going on because of what happened. This was done, months before the virus. They’re going to buy USD250 billion worth of our product. They didn’t want to buy from us. They took advantage of our country. Now they have to buy. And if they don’t buy, we’ll terminate the deal, very simple. But, by using the tariffs, that’s the only reason,” he said.
Trump also alleged that the World Trade Organization has ripped off this country.
“That’s when China became an economic power. And, by the way, you have World Trade and you have Word Health. The World Health Organization has been a disaster. Everything they said was wrong. And they’re China-centric. All they do is they agree with China, whatever China wants to do,” he said.
The US, perhaps foolishly, in retrospect, has been paying USD 450 million a year to the World Health Organization.
China has been paying USD 38 million a year, Trump said.
“But they were more political than all of our leaders previous,” he said.
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